Periodic table of story telling – story starter activities

The Periodic Table of Storytelling  is one of those special treats that comes through your feed and gets your mind buzzing with ideas of how it could be used with students.


As well as being pretty funny, the table covers most of the major story types and character arcs, making it a great tool for engaging students in creative writing.

Each story element has an identifier, name and is grouped under one of the following categories – structure, setting, modifiers, plot devices, heroes, villains, archetypes, character modifiers, meta tropes, production and audience reaction.

Ideas for use with students

  • Give each student in the class one story element, making sure that all categories are represented. (You could make coloured cards for each element).
  • Ask them to form small groups (3-4) and collaborate on a story that incorporates all their individual story elements. This could easily be a homework assignment or even a competition with time limits
  • You could mix up the activity by asking them to write in different genres or mediums – film, play, poem, short story, tv show etc.
  • To make this an individual task, give each student three cards and ask them to include all three elements
  • You could also use these story elements to describe the books you’re reading. This would be a great way to build a shared vocabulary for understanding story and transferring knowledge of one story to other narratives
  • The story elements could be a prompt for a library creative writing challenge – how many story elements can you get in your story? or even a weekly writing challenge with one element as the focus each week
  • Put story element cards into a box and students choose one (or more) to prompt a free writing task

These kinds of forced association activities are a great way to get kids (and adults!) thinking creatively. If you have any other ideas or find something that works well for your students, let us know.

Create interactive stories with Inklewriter

Many of you would remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books which were incredibly popular in the 1980s and 1990s. These novels gave the reader the option of choosing a path through the story and the narrative unfolded in a different way depending on the option selected. This style of fiction was then replicated in some of the early text based adventure games on home computers, however these games tended to be frustrating to play and hard to make. But now writers can easily produce interactive narratives with Inklewriter.

Inklewriter is a non-linear story writing tool which lets you define options for your reader after each section of your story. These options then link to different story sections, so you could end up writing many different stories within the one piece. You can define options which could be as simple as making a character turn left or right, or a much more complicated situation like a conversation with many different options. Pictures can also be added to the story and your writing can be shared.

Inklewriter is quite easy to use and helps you build different story options. You are presented with a first paragraph, and then you can define choices for the reader. Each option links to a new paragraph or can also be linked to an existing paragraph you’ve written. Even a simple story can actually become quite complex once you add a few options, but Inklewriter shows you when you have any loose ends from each story that you need to tie up. In this way, your reader will (hopefully) never get stuck.

This tool would be perfect in creative writing classes or even in other subjects like History, where students might explore the different options available to historical figures. When creating an interactive story students will have to examine the motivations of their characters carefully. It could also lead to some really good discussions about narrative structures, pacing and conversation. Here’s a quick story that we wrote that explains what Inklewriter is all about. It’s not Shakespeare, but hopefully it gives you a bit of an idea of how it works.

The Inklewriter website has some quick tutorials to get you started, and you can begin writing without creating an account (though you will need to create an account to save your work). You can click on Start writing or Read a story to get started. While Inklewriter is still in beta at the moment, it does seem to be quite reliable and is a really interesting option for creating digital, interactive stories.